2014 update of Internet Governance in the Caribbean

Coinciding with start of the 10th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum in the Bahamas, the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework, which will be reviewed at the Forum.

Today, 6 August, marks the start of the 10th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum in Nassau, the Bahamas, which has been organised by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). Generally, the purpose of the Forum is two-pronged: to discuss the Internet Governance (IG) in the Caribbean, especially important issues that merit closer scrutiny; and reviewing and updating the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework to ensure that it reflects the region’s posture on the wide range of issues that fall under IG.

Current state of IG policy in the region

From the draft agenda for this week’s Forum, issues that will receive specific attention include:

  • Caribbean country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) – there has been active lobbying to encourage Caribbean countries to make greater use of their ccTLDs, instead of generic Top Level Domains, such as “.com”, “.org” and “.net”. When ccTLDs are used, extensions such as “.ag” for Antigua and Barbuda; “.bz” for Belize; “.jm” for Jamaica; “.lc” for Saint Lucia; and “.tt” for Trnidad and Tobago, are included as part of a domain name.
  • Caribbean IG at a Crossroad – recent developments including, the multistakeholder statement at NETMundial in April 2014, and the on-going work to transition from stewardship of IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) functions to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), are likely to have an impact on The Caribbean IG landscape, which will be discussed.
  • Caribbean IG Framework – as indicated earlier, one of the key reasons for the Forum is to review and revise, as appropriate, the regional IG policy framework.

In keeping with earlier ICT Pulse articles, the policy framework is a continually amended document that focuses on the following six strategic areas “for urgent Internet governance policy development for the Caribbean” (Source CTU)

  1. Infrastructure for broadband connectivity – where the focus is on, among other things, access to and the availability of broadband networks infrastructure, quality of service, and stimulating the development of broadband facilities and applications.
  2. Internet technical infrastructure and operations management – which focuses on the elements essential for efficient, stable and secure Internet operations, such as Internet Exchange Points, Internet numbering resources allocation and Domain Name System (DNS) management; ccTLDs, technical and operational standards, cybersecurity and spam
  3. Legal frameworks and enforcement – an area that aims to address a wide cross-section of Internet and Internet-related issues for which legal structures and systems are necessary including, dispute resolution, cybercrime, certification
  4. Internet content development and management – which specifically addresses the local content development and disaster mitigation
  5. Public awareness and capacity building – through which education and human resource development to manage and use Internet resources are addressed
  6. Research – which focuses on the examination, measurement and reporting on the development and usage of Internet resources (Source CTU).

Issues that policy framework might need to be addressed

Today, 6 August, a considerable portion of the day will be spent reviewing and revising the Caribbean IG Policy Framework. Below are two issues that were not specifically addressed in the document, but which has increased in importance since the 2013 review exercise.

Privacy and human rights. Although there is supposed be some discussion on privacy during the Forum, privacy and human rights have not been identified as a key issue, for which priority recommendations have been made. However, over the past year, that area has received considerable attention in the region, particularly with regard to the allegations of unauthorised surveillance and spying that has been conducted in the Caribbean, and the passing of the United Nations resolution 68/167, which reaffirmed and extended the right to privacy persons have both offline and online.

Net neutrality. Finally, the issue of network neutrality has been around for several years, but again, it is not mentioned in the regional policy framework. Having said this, over the past two months, the issue has been widely debated across the region, due to the blocking of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service by telecoms companies in the region. Although for the most part, those services have been restored, it is understood that the underlying issues and arguments of the regional telecoms companies have not been resolved. Hence there is an invaluable opportunity, through the policy framework, to establish a regional position on the issue, by which countries can be guided.


Image credit: CTU